The 2016 Europa League Final was probably not the best final you would have seen; but it was a good final and just like our slogan at www.halftimeng.com states; ”its a game of two halves” and that’s what this final served up for us neutrals. Sevilla have made history by winning the Europa League for a third straight year; a Three Peat; what a feat.
The game had its talking points; especially with Liverpool seeking two penalties in the first half, but its the tactical talking points that’s the main focus of my review of the final.
He was massive all through even though Liverpool conceded three goals, but he showed immense leadership through out till he was replaced in a tactical substitution as the Reds chased the game. He definitely deserves a new contract at this rate, I worried about Liverpool starting with him in defense and lacking other alternatives, but the Ivorian had a good solid game.
The Switch in Style and Approach
In the first half, I felt Sevilla were too predictable with their insistence on bumping the ball forward as a means to cope with Liverpool’s high pressing. For me, it gave the Liverpool defense a lot of comfort because Kevin Gameiro is not the tallest of strikers around; hence the needed the wide players in Vitolo and Coke of Nzonzi from deep to provide the height in the middle, hence making them a tad narrow and quite predictable.
In the second half; a quick change of impetus; playing short, quick passes and getting behind their markers; changed the game and got them a great equalizer after just 17 seconds of the restart in the second half. The quick passing and use of pace from wide areas especially through the full backs got Sevilla past the Liverpool press.
Early seizure of initiative
What better way to damage the confidence and psychology of your opponents that to seize the initiative as early as the 17th second with an equalizing goal. Unai Emery would have told his charges how important it was to get an early goal to get them going and back in the cup final.
Inter Milan have lacked a creative player for the last two seasons and they must be glad they snapped up a player of this caliber. The Argentine Midfielder struggled to get into the game in the first half obviously due to Sevilla’s overall approach and the very little space he was afforded. In the second half, he started to find the spaces and the pockets to enable him dictate the play with some smooth, short and quick passes and their eagerness to get their full backs fully involved.
Banega was involved in all the goals and as far as I am concerned was my man of the match.
Liverpool failed to get key players into the game
What a strike by Daniel Sturridge to put Liverpool in the lead; it was one of the few times the Reds got any of the key players into the game and in key positions. For most of the second half; Sevilla were better organized; hence keeping Sturridge away from the eighteen yards box where he could be dangerous. Firmino and Coutinho were largely anonymous through out the game and were well kept at bay by the compact and discipline Sevilla midfield and back line, who switch into something of a back six when without the ball as Nzonzi and Krychowiak drop in to join the center backs; making them difficult to penetrate.
Once Liverpool’s high press was negated by some quick, short and smooth passing, the Reds seem to have no plan b or alternative to get back into the game.